Senate Passes DHS Funding Bill
Friday morning the Senate passed a bill that will extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for one year. The “clean” bill does not include any measures preventing President Obama’s controversial executive action on immigration. Funding for DHS is set to run out at midnight on Friday if Congress cannot pass a funding bill.
However, the bill is unlikely to be passed in the House of Representatives where Republicans are not willing to accept a bill that does not deal with the President’s new immigration policies. Instead, House Republicans have proposed another bill that will fund DHS for an additional three weeks, a short-term fix that will allow both parties to negotiate the issues further.
If Congress cannot pass either of these bills and DHS funding runs out, up to 80 percent of the agency’s employees will be forced to work without pay according to DHS chief Jeh Johnson.
Companies should not be overly concerned about the possibility of DHS funds running out. Although this has large political implications, it is mainly an ideological battle that will not substantially affect the day to day operations of DHS. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the branch of DHS that oversees lawful immigration, is funded through user fees and will continue to function whether DHS is funded or not. In addition, the majority of DHS employees are considered “essential personnel” and will continue to work.
Companies with immigration matters would be wise to file their applications early, as some delays can be expected. It is important to note, however, that H1-B CAP cases will not be accepted until April 1st. Other applications or renewals, especially those subject to time constraints or deadlines, should be submitted at the earliest opportunity. Though we cannot predict how this situation will play out, history tells us that it will be resolved.